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Rachael Walker

In this special series, children's literacy consultant Rachael Walker and many of the authors, parents, and educators she’s met and worked with talk about how books have changed their lives, how to bring books to life for young readers, and how to enrich kids’ lives with good books. (Also visit Rachael at her blog, Belle of the Book.)

The P Word

April 12, 2017

Poetry has never been my favorite. It was something archaic you had to read at school. If it was presented as “Poetry,” I never particularly enjoyed it. I’ve always tried to read more poetry, but it was an effort. Though I love stories, I somehow couldn’t connect to the story in the poems I read.

But it has recently become clear to me that I’ve spent most of my life thinking in poetry.

— Those conversations I imagined the trees were having as I passed through the woods on the way home from school

Poetry

— The lists I make in my head waiting for the light to change, the tea kettle to boil, the train to come

Poetry

— The thankful and kind words I have for my friends but don’t speak or share

Poetry

Sometimes the words did slip out, like the chants and rhymes I fed my babies’ need to hear words

soap soap
bubble
pop
rinse rinse
bubble
stop

Poetry

But I never thought of any of it as poetry.

It took me a while to figure all this out and it has been challenging to try to articulate it. Fortunately, when I stopped by my public library in Arlington last week, the poet was IN.

 

The literary help I needed was right in front of me — in the form of a noted local poet.

As part of National Poetry Month, the Arlington Public Library, Arlington Arts, and the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization was posting poets throughout Arlington. Poets were on hand at libraries and the farmers market to write poems on demand.

My poet, Slli'm Williams, somehow knew to ask me about my feelings about poetry. I thought this was interesting because if I was a poet at a poetry writing booth, I would have assumed that anyone stopping by the booth probably liked poetry. Was my predicament with poetry written all over my face?

I told Slli’m about my indifference to what I considered “Poetry” and how I thought of poetry as this rigid thing.

I think many people get poetry handed to them as a precious finished product and never know that they too are poets.

 

But I didn’t feel that way with the poem Slii’m handed to me. I felt freed — like I’d gone outside on a beautiful day without any obligations or direction.

 

In Rachael's Mind: A Poem

I hadn’t understood that poetry is freedom. That’s why it didn’t occur to me that I’d been thinking in poetry. There are no hard rules. There is no form to fear. Poetry lets you do what you want to do, connect where you wish to connect, and say what you want to say to yourself or to the world.

Maybe some would call poetry something other than freedom. But maybe you don’t have to call it anything. It is part of your thoughts, part of your story. Go ahead and share. It is freeing.

Now that I see how poetry is connected to my own story, I’ve found I can connect to poetry! Here’s some poetry I am enjoying right now:

If you’ve wrestled with the P word, I hope you’ll share your story in the comments.

Comments

I am a picky poetry reader, but I have learned that poetry is everywhere and that I shouldn't be afraid to write down my thoughts and call it poetry. Recently I went for a walk and the rhythm of my steps made me want to sing and I made up the lyrics to go with the rhythm. That was a profound poetry moment for me. Your story reminds me of the book Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer where Daniel asks the animals in a park what poetry is and they each have a unique answer that adds up to a clever conclusion. It’s one of my favorite picture books from last year. The artwork is very peaceful too.

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"A book is a gift you can open again and again." — Garrison Keillor